is from Poznan. Evil tidings. In Great Poland the nobles are rising, the people are joining them. At the head of the movement is Krishtof Jegotski, who wants to march to the aid of Chenstohova."
"I foretold that these shots would be heard from the Carpathians to the Baltic," muttered Sadovski. "With this people change is sudden. You do not know the Poles yet; you will discover them later."
"Well! we shall know them," answered Miller. "I prefer an open enemy to a false ally. They yielded of their own accord, and now they are taking arms. Well! they will know our weapons."
"And we theirs," blurted out Sadovski. "General, let us finish negotiations with Chenstohova; let us agree to any capitulation. It is not a question of the fortress, but of the rule of his Royal Grace in this country."
"The monks will capitulate," said Count Veyhard. "Today or to-morrow they will yield."
So they conversed with one another; but in the cloister after early Mass the joy was unbounded. Those who had not gone out in the sortie asked those who had how everything had happened. Those who had taken part boasted greatly, glorifying their own bravery and the defeat they had given the enemy.
Among the priests and women curiosity became paramount. White habits and women's robes covered the wall. It was a beautiful and gladsome day. The women gathered around Charnyetski, crying "Our deliverer! our guardian!" He defended himself particularly when they wanted to kiss his hands, and pointing to Kmita, said,—
"Thank him too. He is Babinich, but no old woman. He will not let his hands be Kissed, for there is blood on them yet; but if any of the younger would like to kiss him on the lips, I think that he would not flinch."
The younger women did in fact cast modest and at the same time enticing glances at Pan Andrei, admiring his splendid beauty; but he did not answer with his eyes to those dumb questions, for the sight of these maidens reminded him of Olenka.
"Oh, my poor girl!" thought he, "if you only knew that in the service of the Most Holy Lady I am opposing those enemies whom formerly I served to my sorrow!"
And he promised himself that the moment the siege was over he would write to her in Kyedani, and hurry off Soroka with the letter. "And I shall send her not empty words and promises; for now deeds are behind me, which without empty boasting, but accurately, I shall describe in the letter. Let her know that she has done this, let her be comforted."
And he consoled himself with this thought so much that he did not even notice how the maidens said to one another, in departing,—
"He is a good warrior; but it is clear that he looks only to battle, and is an unsocial grumbler."
According to the wish of his officers, Miller began negotiations again. There came to the cloister from the Swedish camp a well-known Polish noble, respected for his age and his eloquence. They received him graciously on Yasna Gora, judging that only in seeming and through constraint would he argue for surrender, but in reality would add to their courage and confirm the news, which had broken through the besieged wall, of the rising in Great Poland; of the dislike of the quarter troops to Sweden; of the negotiations of Yan Kazimir with the Cossacks, who, as it were, seemed willing to return to obedience; finally, of the tremendous declaration of the Khan of the Tartars, that he was marching with aid to the vanquished king, all of whose enemies he would pursue with fire and sword.
But how the monks were mistaken! The personage brought indeed a large bundle of news,—but news that was appalling, news to cool the most fervent zeal, to crush the most invincible resolution, stagger the most ardent faith.
The priests and the nobles gathered around him in the council chamber, in the midst of silence and attention; from his lips sincerity itself seemed to flow, and pain for the fate of the country. He placed his hand frequently on his white head as if wishing to restrain an outburst of despair; he gazed on the crucifix; he had tears in his eyes, and in slow, broken accents, he uttered the following words:—
"Ah, what times the suffering country has lived to! All help is past: it is incumbent to yield to the King of the Swedes. For whom in reality have you, revered fathers, and you lords brothers, the nobles, seized your swords? For whom are you sparing neither watching nor toil, nor suffering nor blood? For whom, through resistance,—unfortunately vain,—are you exposing yourselves and holy places to the terrible vengeance of the invincible legions of Sweden? Is it for Yan Kazimir? But he has already disregarded our kingdom. Do you not know that he has already made his choice, and preferring wealth, joyous feasts; and peaceful delights to a troublesome throne, has abdicated in favor of Karl Gustav? You are not willing to leave him, but he has left you, you are unwilling to break your oath, he has broken it; you are ready to die for him, but he cares not for you nor for any of us. Our lawful king now is Karl Gustav! Be careful, then, lest you draw on your heads, not merely anger, vengeance, and ruin, but sin before heaven, the cross, and the Most Holy Lady; for you are raising insolent hands, not against invaders, but against your own king."
These words were received in silence, as though death were flying through that chamber. What could be more terrible than news of the abdication of Yan Kazimir? It was in truth news monstrously improbable; but that old noble gave it there in presence of the cross, in presence of the image of Mary, and with tears in his eyes.
But if it were true, further resistance was in fact madness. The nobles covered their eyes with their hands, the monks pulled their cowls over their heads, and silence, as of the grave, continued unbroken; but Kordetski, the prior, began to whisper earnest prayer with his pallid lips, and his eyes, calm, deep, clear, and piercing, were fixed on the speaker immovably.
The noble felt that inquiring glance, was ill at ease and oppressed by it; he wished to preserve the marks of importance, benignity, compassionate virtue, good wishes, but could not; he began to cast restless glances on the other fathers, and after a while he spoke further:—
"It is the worst thing to inflame stubbornness by a long abuse of patience. The result of your resistance will be the destruction of this holy church, and the infliction on you—God avert it!—of a terrible and cruel rule, which you will be forced to obey. Aversion to the world and avoidance of its questions are the weapons of monks. What have you to do with the uproar of war,—you, whom the precepts of your order call to retirement and silence? My brothers, revered and most beloved fathers! do not take on your hearts, do not take on your consciences, such a terrible responsibility. It was not you who built this sacred retreat, not for you alone must it serve! Permit that it flourish, and that it bless this land for long ages, so that our sons and grandsons may rejoice in it."
Here the traitor opened his arms and fell into tears. The nobles were silent, the fathers were silent; doubt had seized all. Their hearts were tortured, and despair was at hand; the memory of baffled and useless endeavors weighed on their minds like lead.
"I am waiting for your answer, fathers," said the venerable traitor, dropping his head on his breast.
Kordetski now rose, and with a